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‘Fake news’ and internet/political regulation

Discussion in 'off topic' started by Tony L, Jul 29, 2018.

  1. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    It is clear that bullshit propaganda is having an increasing influence on politics the world over at present. Blatant lies and misinformation used to fuel prejudice and xenophobia etc and turn ugly sentiment into votes for far-right and other extremists. As someone who has been online since before the WWW even existed seeing how the most ugly political forces have grasped control and the damage they are doing to this world via “our” platform really is hugely depressing.

    By saying that the internet’s biggest strength has always been that it is open, free and absolutely out of reach of any authoritarian states. It is bigger than they are. This means no matter how awful, bigoted and untruthful the alt-right etc propaganda we see I’m reluctant to see anything at all that attempts to regulate the internet itself. It needs to remain far beyond the control of any state and I remain a full supporter of net neutrality etc. What I’d like to see in its place is proper national political accountability, i.e. if a political party, affiliated pressure group or dodgy paid data mining company produces lies to sell a political party, side in a referendum or whatever then they, or whoever funded them, can be sued for false advertising the way an insurance company or bank would be. Leave the internet itself well alone, it needs to remain exactly what it is. We should however be able to sue the likes of Arron Banks, Nigel Farage, Steve Bannon, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson etc etc out of existence as their whole modus operandi is lying to the public. If they were selling any financial product, insurance, car or whatever the way they sell politics they would all be in jail right now.

    PS When I started typing this I merely wanted to link to and briefly comment on the recent Parliamentary Select Committee findings on ‘fake news’ and see what we all thought, but it turned into a bit of a rant! Here’s the ever-wonderful Carol Cadwalladr in The Guardian making some good points, but I think we need to be very careful to keep state authoritarianism well away from the internet and attack political liars, shills and con-artists directly, not the inherent freedom of the platform. Here is the parliament.uk link.
    jackbarron likes this.
  2. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

    I’ll read the report when I get a chance. The Cadwalladr article is very Cadwalladr: breathless and bordering on misdirection. E.g. this passage:

  3. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Seems quite accurate to me. It is blindingly obvious the whole Vote Leave campaign was based on blatant misinformation and xenophobic spin. It was almost entirely false advertising. You could never advertise any commercial product in such a way without ending up in court.
  4. Marky-Mark

    Marky-Mark pfm Member

    You can't regulate ignorance, so that isn't an option. Education isn't viable either, since I don't believe there's a tried and true method for developing critical thinking skills in the incapable. If there were, we wouldn't be in the predicament. GWB said it best - "you can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you concentrate on." What better platform to effect that mission statement than an unfettered alternate reality?

    I expect a lot of people will awaken to the near-complete democratization of news and information with a queasy uneasy feeling. The fact that this includes the source of most news ... well, It was always a be careful what you wish for proposition. It'll hit people about how Climate Change will when it's on their doorstep.

    I really, really, really don't know why people are so surprised by what happens when inmates run the asylum. Happy Trending!
    Rockmeister likes this.
  5. HairyHaggis

    HairyHaggis <((((º>`•.¸¸.•´¯`•.¸.•´¯`•...¸><((((º>¸.

    it's a matter of fact that cummings repeatedly avoided attending the committee hearings, even though he has put himself on the record as saying that the committee did not afford him ample opportunity to attend. his deceit on a personal level appropriately mirrors his deceit in the public domain. *cadwalladr is simply telling it as it is*. i myself have to admire that, especially in todays climate of misinformation, deflection and ...well, it's lying, isn't it? the committee's determination to redirect and reset the vocabulary which has now become common parlance and which seeks to normalise the deceptions is also to be admired.
    Still and ff1d1l like this.
  6. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

    By inmates you mean billionaire platform owners, presumably? Otherwise this is just more anti democratic pearl clutching.
  7. droodzilla

    droodzilla pfm Member

    It's a double-edged sword. Frankly, I would have gone mad during the 2017 without AAV (Another Angry Voice) on my Facebook feed. Forget social media: the fact that one man and a pay-as-you-feel blog displayed more critical thinking than the all the BBC's political "gurus" combined says a lot about the sorry state of political journalism generally.

    Anyway, it seems clear what's needed is:

    1. Total transparency in political advertising (and, I would add lobbying, punditry etc.)
    2. Adequate laws against the incitement of hatred
    3. Electoral spending rules (and other regulations)that reflect the new reality
    4. Regulatory and legal bodies that have the power to enforce the above

    I'm a bit nervous about enforcing the *truth* of claims made during election campaigns, as there are so many grey areas. On the other hand, commercial advertisers are already restrained from telling outright lies while allowing them to "puff up" their products, so perhaps similar standards could and should be applied to political ads. Worth a try, I think.

    Whatever is done, it should apply equally to other platforms and mainstream media. This includes being explicit about who political pundits represent and where their funding comes from (I write this after witness yet another ghoul from the far-right Henry Jackson Society being given a platform on BBC1 this morning to argue in favour of the death penalty for British jihadists).

    It also must not adversely impact on the many excellent small independent sites that provide a much-needed alternative to the usual channels. Mainstream political journalism has little to feel smug about and the solution to that should not be to hobble its competitors.
    maxflinn likes this.
  8. Rockmeister

    Rockmeister pfm Member

    I thought it was just a smokescreen...govt discovered as fake news propogators urgently investigate nasty media for being bad people.
    My problem is that IF they decide that 'we' need protecting from the nasty people, it will hit basic freedoms again, but to be honest, this snowball is far too large to stop, and the will of the people to apply the brakes gets less each day.
    Remember that street cams were an invasion of privacy?
    Remember that 'stop and search' was once a matter for rioting?

    Ironically, it's our preoccupation with web life that prevents from seeing web life in it's entire and quite dark whole.
    Marky-Mark likes this.
  9. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

    She downplays the welcome rejection of the fake news epithet. She claims the referendum result was the result of the ads, a breathlessly overstated and personal interpretation of the situation that she sneaks in without argument in a way that suggests she is reporting the findings of the committee. It would make a fine case study in water-muddying in the service of a personal agenda.

    Full Fact have a good thread on the report here:


    Key points:

    3 is the radical solution to the problem that gets almost no mainstream attention: we need public alternatives to these privately owned platforms. Negative regulation isn’t going to cut it.
  10. Seeker_UK

    Seeker_UK Waiting for the streetcar..

    How would you see that implemented?
  11. Marky-Mark

    Marky-Mark pfm Member

    They play a role, certainly. And no, I don't own pearls. Or a fainting couch. What I do own is perception. And what I've watched since the late 90s is the Internet sew itself deeper into the collective conscience to the point that it's comical. Except it's anything but.

    The Internet drives nearly all sources of news and information. Marketers are the stewards of this free internet. Trillions of dollars and no one makes anything of value. They don't have to because its inhabitants have become the product.

    Ask yourself this. Do successful institutions and/or companies randomly pick from the rank and file workers their own leaders? No, of course not. Do schools and colleges randomly take students from the most average of ability to design their curriculums? No, of course not. Because success is defined by standards. And so you uphold those standards as course.

    Democracy is a wonderful concept, but you don't democratize simply for its own sake. Read the early Greek take on Democracy. They certainly knew. However, this is just what the Internet has done. It has taken information, including most news, and put it in the hands of a democratized mob that bases what is news worthy on the mob's own ranking system, coupled with the salable metrics of page views and hit counts.

    There is no newsroom of educated people beholden to a standard fact-checking and deciding what gets print or air time based on importance. And because the Internet now drives commerce, commercial news entities are compelled to parrot what Trends on the Internet. And this has become locked in a vicious cycle.

    At its most basic, these events have allowed people of marginal intelligence a disproportionally large role in determining what is most newsworthy. In its most compelling, if you're eager to play along, it creates an environment exceptionally ripe for exploitation. That's my perception. If that's pearl clutching, so be it.
    ff1d1l likes this.
  12. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

    Seeker_UK likes this.
  13. Joe Hutch

    Joe Hutch Mate of the bloke

    Yeah; they didn't allow women to vote, for a kick-off.
  14. Marky-Mark

    Marky-Mark pfm Member

    We're talking about a 5th century democracy. And so this ^ invalidates my entire point. /sigh/ I didn't realize every discussion is basically a cable thread on PFM.
  15. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    That looks like a good idea, though it would have to be done with great care. The main problem with the BBC news and current affairs programming at present is a crazy implementation of ‘equivalence’ where they platform factually incorrect bullshit or reactionary opinion from ‘both sides’ rather than just reporting events and applying real evidence-based critical scrutiny (e.g. properly fact-checking all claims made and publicly outing the liars and con-artists). “Democratisation” can be a very dangerous thing if it gives equal weight to idiots and experts alike.
    ff1d1l likes this.
  16. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

  17. droodzilla

    droodzilla pfm Member

    ^^^ You're just cross they didn't invite you.
    Rockmeister likes this.
  18. davidsrsb

    davidsrsb pfm Member

    Who defines a fact? I live with a fake news law that could jail you for seven years for repeating news that the government had decreed was fake. The new government is in the process of cleaning up the law, but could easily use the current law to jail millions from the previous ruling party with their own law.
  19. HairyHaggis

    HairyHaggis <((((º>`•.¸¸.•´¯`•.¸.•´¯`•...¸><((((º>¸.

    nobody defines a fact. it is self-defining.
    Still likes this.
  20. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    You seem to be falling into the binary mindset of having to support one option and decry the alternative. It is possible to be highly skeptical of influences in the mainstream and still be horrified by the traction everything from Vote Leave through to Yaxley-Lennon, Britain First etc are gaining of late through highly organised internet misinformation campaigns. None of this need impact the likes of Momentum, AAV etc, who it is clear you defend, as long as their content is entirely truthful and stands up to basic legal scrutiny. To my mind any political advertising needs to be factual, honest, and very clear as to who has funded in and in whose interest.

    The only logical option IMHO is to force accountability and make it possible to sue political organisations for lies, false-promises, misinformation etc just the way you can sue a bank, financial adviser, insurance company, car manufacturer etc. Given how corrupt our politics I’d like to see it be possible to sue financial backers too, e.g. UKIP or Leave.EU’s bare-faced lies, misinformation and data mining chicanery should be underwritten by the likes of Arron Banks etc who funded it.
    Still likes this.

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